Sir: Your recent article (‘High street contest a gimmick says Labour,’ The Grocer, 21 June, p8) is as cynical as it is misguided.
The Great British High Street competition is something to be proud of. It is being championed by key industry bodies and members of the Future High Street Forum. It is about giving due recognition to the tireless work to revitalise our high streets by local authorities, businesses, and town teams on the ground. This effort to adapt to how consumer habits have changed should be praised. As a magazine that serves the high street, I find it baffling that you would want to side with the opposition.
Instead of Labour’s default position of doom and gloom, it is important we recognise that many of our high streets have turned a corner thanks to their Great British fortitude and resilience. Confidence among independent retailers is at its highest level since 2008 and 44 new independent shops opened every day last year. Retail sales are at a 10-year high and c-stores are flourishing. This competition seeks to find and praise those high streets that are working to make their high streets great places to live, work and shop. This can only benefit our country. I hope you will get behind it.
This government’s commitment to high streets extends well beyond this competition. We have also introduced a billion-pound package of targeted business rate discounts and a raft of sensible planning changes. And this week, we announced action to tackle over-zealous parking enforcement. All this forms the backbone of the government’s strong policy response to the problems we inherited from Labour.
Brandon Lewis, high streets minister